Line between perception, reality blurred in Tiger case

By Rex HoggardApril 13, 2013, 5:03 pm

“If you need someone to blame, throw a rock in the air. You'll hit someone guilty”  U2’s Bono, 'Dirty Day'

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A bad bounce, a bad decision, a very bad moment at a place that eschews controversy and missteps.

No one is to blame, everyone is to blame.

The range of emotions under the iconic oak tree behind the Augusta National clubhouse early Saturday swirled like winds on Amen Corner – from stunned disbelief to distrust.

When Tiger Woods’ third shot at the par-5 15th caromed off the flag stick and into the pond late Friday afternoon, the worst outcome seemed to be a dropped shot or two. No one would have imagined that the world No. 1 would drop a haymaker on the entire game with his next move.

Photos: Tiger's illegal drop on 15

Woods responds to penalty on Twitter

Augusta National's statement on Tiger's penalty

According to the Rules of Golf, Woods had three options after karma played its cruel joke. He could play from the drop zone, he could go back as far as he wanted on the line the ball crossed into the hazard, or he could drop closest to the spot of his original shot.

“I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet,” Woods said following his second-round 71. “I went 2 yards further back and I took, tried to take 2 yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.”

In a court of golf law, that statement is akin to a plea of no contest, however unintended it may have been.

Closest to the spot of the original shot does not mean “2 yards,” or a few feet as the video replay suggests. Inevitably, officials and Woods arrived at the conclusion he’d taken an incorrect drop for his fifth shot at No. 15.

Where things get sideways is the club’s decision to adhere to Rule 33-7, which states, “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted.”

Officials were made aware of the possible infraction by a viewer before Woods completed his round, but after a review of the tape they decided he “complied with the rules.”

Woods’ unintended mea culpa with the media after the fact, however, prompted another review. After a meeting with Woods on Saturday morning at the club, officials decided he had taken an incorrect drop and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty, but he will play on.

“The committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player’s round,” Augusta National said in a statement.

What’s legal and what’s right are very much mutually exclusive in golf.

In 1968, on these same hallowed grounds, Roberto De Vicenzo signed for a score that was one stroke higher than what he’d actually shot and finished one stroke behind Bob Goalby.

Two years later, the Argentine was awarded the Bob Jones Award by the USGA for recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. As Woods’ 1:45 p.m. ET tee time approached it was impossible not to imagine how De Vicenzo would respond to Saturday’s news; or Jones, who founded Augusta National.

In many ways it feels as if Augusta National should be given two strokes. After missing the violation on the initial review they failed to follow up with Woods, who clearly had nothing to hide and no idea he’d whiffed a drop, again.

Rule 33-7 was added in recent years to protect players, specifically against viewers calling in potential violations that could only be seen during high-definition broadcast, and officials were comfortable with the decision, if not the situation.

“(Rule 33-7) is to protect players when the committee changes its mind,” said Fred Ridley, the Masters rules committee chairman. “Committees make mistakes. I think he’s entitled to protection.”

Perhaps, but one official told your scribe that in the two-plus years since rule makers created 33-7, the PGA Tour has not used the amendment once. Not once.

Earlier this season in Abu Dhabi, Woods ran afoul of the rules on another drop from a sandy area. In January, like he did on Friday at Augusta National, Woods failed to call a rules official in for review.

That Woods’ snafu occurred on the same day that officials issued a one-stroke penalty for slow play to 14-year-old Chinese amateur Tianlang Guan only feeds the public frenzy.

The Rules of Golf are many things, but above all else they are not capricious. Golf doesn’t do an expanded strike zone, officials don’t “swallow whistles” late in rounds and “letting them play” is not in the lexicon.

The decision to intervene and forego disqualification – the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard, which Woods did – may have been the right thing, it may even have been just, but there was no escaping the pall the ruling has cast over the Masters, if not all of golf.

“It's like a Supreme Court ruling now, we’ve got precedent,” Arron Oberholser said on Golf Channel.

Miscues, however heinous, will now be scrutinized in a different light – “Sure I signed for a 65 instead of my 75, but the scorer got the math wrong as well. Give me a Rule 33-7 and let’s play away.”

Some say Woods should own the matter, withdraw from the event and defuse the scrutiny. But that would do nothing to change the perception, however unfair, that Augusta National is playing “Tiger rules,” and in fact could be interpreted as an insult toward the club.

Woods was the victim of a bad bounce and responsible for a bad drop, not what turned out to be a very bad day for golf.

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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”